Catherine Giordano is a writer and public speaker who often speaks out on political matters.
How Many Kinds of Crazy Is Donald Trump?
Quite a few psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals have been publicly sounding the alarm about Donald Trump--they believe that he exhibits many of the signs of mental illness. So, to put in colloquially, how many kind of crazy is Donald Trump?
Definition of a Personality Disorder
First, let’s look at how the DSM defines a personality disorder: “An enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectation of the individual's culture, is pervasive and inflexible, has an onset in adolescence or early adulthood, is stable over time, and leads to distress or impairment.”
It is obvious that Donald Trump’s behavior deviates from what is expected from a person in his position. Further, if you read any of the biographies written about Trump, it is obvious that this pattern of behavior has existed throughout his life. (I can’t say if this behavior leads to personal distress, but it is evident that it causes distress to a great many people in this country, including political professionals in the Republican party.)
Let’s now turn our attention to the individual personality disorders observable in the behavior of Donald Trump. There is some overlap of indications among these disorders.
8 Mental Illness Diagnoses That Fit Donald Trump
- Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
- Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)
- Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)
- Pathological Lying
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Manic-Depressive Disorder
Below, I give details and examples for each diagnosis.
Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)
The DSM describes narcissistic personality disorder as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”
Most narcissists are unwilling, rather than unable, to change their behavior. In other words, they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior--they like being narcissistic.
About 1% of the U.S. population can be classified as having NPD. Only a very few exhibit extreme narcissism or as it is sometimes called “malignant narcissism.” Donald Trump appears to be an extreme narcissist.
We see his grandiosity on display almost every day. He constantly uses superlatives to describe himself and everything about him. He’s the best, his golf resorts are the best, even the chocolate cake served at his Mar-A-Lago Resort is the best.
He demonstrates his need for admiration with his constant public statements about his accomplishments. He boasts about himself even when it is highly inappropriate.
Evidence of Trump's Narcissism
- At The National Prayer Breakfast in February 2017, he talked about the ratings of his reality TV show.
- When he gave a speech to pre-teen and teen boys at the Boy Scouts of America National Convention in July 2017, he regaled them with a recounting of his election win and then descended to vulgarity with his stories about the lives of the rich and famous. (Later, the BSA had to apologize for the speech. I think this is a first. No one has ever before had to apologize for inviting a president to speak.)
- At a recent Cabinet meeting, he went around the table and had each person deliver a tribute to him. Any normal person would have been embarrassed by such effusive praise, but not Donald Trump—he basked in it.
Trump has seldom, if ever, displayed any signs of empathy—the ability to identify and sympathize with the feelings of another person. In fact, just the opposite—he appears to like humiliating people.
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- Early in the campaign, he mocked a disabled reporter;
- He habitually insults people with nasty tweets and public comments in interviews (even his own staff and Cabinet members).
- When James Comey was fired as Director of the FBI, Trump humiliated him because Comey was not told he was being fired—Comey learned about it when he saw it on TV in the midst of giving a speech in California to new recruits.
Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD)
Paranoid Personality Disorder is characterized as a pervasive and enduring mistrust of others. Some of the behaviors of people with PPD are frequent complaining and demonstrating hostility, rigidity, and grudge–holding.
Evidence of Trump's Paranoia
- Donald Trump is constantly complaining about how he is being mistreated by the press. He responds to their factually accurate representations of him and his behaviors and policies with hostility. He frequently tweets about the “failing New York Times.” (Note: the New York Times is not failing. Subscriptions have increased.)
- Trump publicly announced his suspicions that former President Obama had “tapped” his phones. It was a ludicrous claim, and it was totally discredited by the FBI and other national security agencies. Nonetheless, Trump displayed his rigidity by refusing to admit that he was wrong.
- Trump demands total loyalty from those around him. If he feels that someone has been less than slavishly loyal, he can’t let it go. Comey is gone from the FBI, yet Trump continues to demean him. Trump also publicly insults Attorney General Jeff Sessions and others in the Justice Department because they have not acted to end the “Russia investigation.”
However, people with PPD can often appear rational and charming. This personality flip tends to disarm critics. How many times have people said that Trump has turned the corner and become presidential, only to find that within 24 hours, he has reverted to his “crazy” behaviors?
Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD)
People with Antisocial Personality Disorder are unethical, immoral, and irresponsible in their treatment of others because they lack a moral conscience. They act purely to fulfill their own desires. They frequently violate societal norms and rules about acceptable behavior.
Evidence of Trump's APD
- Trump often rails against “political correctness”. He does not think that the rules for acceptable behavior should apply to him.
- In his business career, he frequently exploited his employees and suppliers (mostly small businesses) by refusing to pay them. A few sued him and won, but most did not have the resources for a court battle. Some were forced into bankruptcy.
- Trump took out bank loans to fund his Trump Casinos in New Jersey. He later declared bankruptcy (six times) and considered this behavior to be nothing more than smart business practices.
- Trump University was a scam. Trump ended up having to pay $25 million dollars to settle a civil class-action suit brought by his “students.” Criminal investigations are underway, but individuals with APD are usually clever enough to stay just within the law.
People with APD don’t experience regret or remorse for the harm they do to others. During the 2016 campaign, Trump was asked if he ever asked God for forgiveness. He couldn’t find one thing in his entire life that required forgiveness.
APD often includes elements of sadism—taking pleasure in hurting others. Trump will sometimes express this by urging others to be physically violent.
- At campaign rallies, Trump urged the crowd to assault the protesters and described how he wished he could see them carried out on a stretcher. One time he told them that he would pay their legal bills if they were arrested for assault.
- In July 2017, in a speech to law enforcement officials Trump urged the police to engage in police brutality by roughing up the suspects they arrested.
People with APD may be highly intelligent and often possess an intuitive ability to analyze the needs and desires of others. They can often be charming. Unfortunately, they use these gifts to manipulate and exploit others.
Pathological lying is habitual or compulsive lying. The fabrications are deigned to portray the liar favorably. In some cases, it is related to false memory syndrome—the liar comes to believe that the lies he is telling are true. To give Trump the benefit of the doubt, it might just be wishful thinking or perhaps only a political trick—The Big Lie. Say it loud enough and often enough and people will believe it.
It is hard to know what to make of Donald Trump’s habitual lying, often making statements that can readily be proven false. One of his biggest lies was about the size of the crowd at his inaugural ceremony. He claimed it was much bigger that Obama’s. When aerial pictures clearly proved that Trump had only half as many people present, he ordered the Park Service not to release the photos.
In the first 298 days since inauguration, Trump made 1,628 false or misleading statements. At this rate, by the end of his first year in office, he will reach a total of about 2000 lies. (Reported in Esquire Magazine, November 2017) That is an average of 5 lies per day.
Everybody tells a lie sometimes and some politicians lie a lot, but Trump has taken lying to an extreme.
Megalomania is often referred to as “delusions of grandeur.” It refers to a feeling of omnipotence, an over-evaluation of one’s own abilities and power, and an obsession with doing extravagant and grand things. In Trump this may be manifested in his penchant for slapping his names on sky-scraper buildings across the world and on all manner of unrelated businesses—Trump Airlines, Trump Steak, Trump Water, etc. (Note: These businesses all failed.)
Megalomania is part of narcissism and I wouldn’t even give it its own section except for a recent comment Trump made at a July 2017 campaign-style rally in Ohio. He told the crowd that one day his face might be on Mount Rushmore. He tried to say he was only joking, but the comment showed that had been thinking about it.
It is clear that Trump also has a fascination with dictators, like Russia’s Putin. He admires them--and perhaps wishes to emulate them—for their absolute power. He feels that because he is president he should have that same sort of power. He appears to be increasingly angry and frustrated about being thwarted by Congress and the rule of law.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
(ADHD) is characterized by problems paying attention, excessive activity, and impulsivity. If you have watched Donald Trump for even five minutes, you have seen these symptoms.
Have you noticed that he tends to speak in sentence fragments, moving on to a new thought before he has completed the first one? Have you noticed how he goes off on wild stream-of-consciousness rambles when he is off teleprompter? These are all signs of a mind that can’t stay focused.
Trump is unable to sit still for more than a few minutes. I watched him at the Prayer Service at the National Cathedral on the day after the inauguration. Everyone else was still and Trump kept fidgeting.
And his impulsiveness will be his ruination. (And maybe our’s too.) He blurted out CIA secrets to the Russian ambassador. During a national television interview, he confessed that he fired Jim Comey because of the the FBI's Russia investigation, thereby all but admitting obstruction of justice. When he saw some disturbing images of Syrian children who were victims of nerve gas in Syria, he fired off 52 missiles without first formulating a military strategy to justify those bombings.
I don’t know if Trump suffers from depression, although sometimes in the midst of a period of bad news-cycles, he has no official schedule and is not seen or heard from for days at a time. The mania, however, is very evident. Some of the symptoms of this condition are little need for sleep, arrogance, impulsivity, irritability, and diminished judgment.
He claims he only needs about four hours of sleep a night, so in wakes early, and in the predawn hours, he’s restlessness, and tweeting. Some of his most disastrous tweets seem to come at this time—like in June 2017 when he insulted the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mika Brzezikinky, for inviting herself to Mar-A Lago just before New Year’s Eve and showing up bleeding from a facelift (Note: She did not have a facelift and she went to Mar-A-Lago only because there was no polite way to refuse Trump’s repeated invitations to her and co-host Joe Scarborough.) And what made this really crazy, the visit happened SIX months prior to the tweet.
And finally, we come to dementia, sometimes called senility.,It is defined as a decline in cognitive function, usually attributable to advancing age. (Trump is 71 years old.) It can affect thinking, language, judgment, memory, and behavior (personality change). Is dementia causing Trump’ s disorganized thinking, irrational behavior, incoherent speech patterns, lack of good judgment, irritability, and the apparent inability to know reality from fiction?
It could simply be age-related or possibly the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease. Some have even said it might be caused by untreated syphilis contracted due to the sexually promiscuous behavior Trump admits he engaged in for decades.
The Goldwater Rule and the Duty to Warn
In 1973, The American Psychiatric Association established the so-called “Goldwater Rule” in response to public assertions by several psychiatrists during the 1964 election campaign about the mental health of Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater. The rule states that psychiatrists should not offer a diagnosis for any person they had not personally examined, and even then, not without the patient's express permission to do so.
However, some psychiatrists are pointing to another rule, the duty to warn. If someone is a danger to himself or to others, a psychiatrist may be permitted to warn those in danger. In this case, the United States, and maybe the entire world, could be in danger.
Perhaps with the “duty to warn” dictum in mind, in July 2017, The American Psychiatric Association sent an email to its members which stated it "does not consider political commentary by its individual members an ethical matter."
John Gartner is a psychologist in private practice, an assistant professor at John Hopkins University Medical School and the author of In Search of Bill Clinton: A Psychological Biography and All I Ever Wanted to Know About Donald Trump I Learned From His Tweets: A Psychological Exploration of the President via Twitter
He argues that the Goldwater Rule is outdated, because the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) makes it possible to diagnose based on behavior. Speaking about Donald Trump, he says, “We have a lot of data based on his behavior.” It is documented on TV and in the newspapers every day.
"Fire and Fury" Proves Trump's Craziness
Critics of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump say many of the experts in the book are diagnosing from afar—most of them have never even met Donald Trump. The same cannot be said about Michael Wolff, the author the Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. Wolff, a long term political reporter, spent months camped out in the West Wing, observing from a front row seat. He also interviewed over 200 people who were close to Donald Trump.
The book reads like a novel, and a page-turner at that. Nonetheless, it exposes a dysfunctional White House and a dysfunctional president. Chapter by chapter, the book makes the case that Trump lacks the capacity to be president. As Wolff has said in many interviews, “…100% of the people closest to the president, to Donald Trump, believe that there is something wrong here, something fundamentally wrong, something that scares them.” (MSNBC Morning Joe interview with Michael Wolff)
Over and over in the book, the people closest to Trump describe him as idiot (pp 36, 62,186, 223, 291, 304, 305) and question his psychological fitness, sometimes even outright calling him crazy (pp. 233, 296). It is clear that the people who know Trump best believe that he is suffering from one or more of the disorders listed in the article.
I am not a psychiatrist, a psychologist, nor a mental health professional, although I do have a BA in Psychology and an avid interest in the field. Although I am not a certified expert, I feel competent to report what mental health professionals are saying about the personality disorders they have observed. A Donald Trump himself would say when he wants to distance himself from some crazy thing he is saying, “Some people are saying…”
Also, there is nothing subtle about Donald Trump’s behavior. Anybody with any knowledge of psychology can see that his behavior is, to use the word in common parlance, “crazy.”
My biggest fear was that the stress of the presidency would make his condition worse. Psychiatrists are now saying that very thing. They call it decompensation. Stress causes the coping mechanisms that a person uses to get by to fail. We might call it unraveling or becoming unhinged. We can see Trump getting worse day by day.
In a TV interview, Dr. Lance Dodes, a psychiatrist said, Trump is "a very sick man"[ and he is "enormously dangerous." Dodes adds, "He is slipping into delusional thinking... He is not in control of himself... He is becoming psychotic."
Dodes reinforced my worst fears saying this is an "enormous present danger to us from the standpoint of creating a nuclear war as well as destroying democracy."
I repeat, "Nuclear war and destroying democracy."
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2017 Catherine Giordano